"I did it for the likes."

 two milennials sitting at a table staring at their phones

I saw a story on the news recently.

I don’t watch the news much anymore, but the TV happened to be on.

On the screen, there was a boy being interviewed by a reporter.

“Why did you do it?”

The boy stammered, smiled, and paused for a second. “I did it for the likes,” he blurted out, grinning sheepishly as he said.

The interview was not about a random act of kindness, or winning a game, or doing something physically or mentally challenging.

It was about Tide pods, the small, multi-colored packets of laundry detergent.

To be more specific, it was about eating Tide pods while being recorded for a YouTube video.

“I did it for the likes” might as well be “I did it to be liked.”

With the growing influence of social media, people are doing anything to get attention. To fit in. To be accepted. To feel important. To matter.

There is a generation of kids growing up addicted to social media, and I am notspeaking hyperbolically.

Science is showing that social media literally rewires and changes the brain. It is making children less able to focus, less able to think deeply, and less able toengage deeply with the world around them.

It’s a modern anxiety, and social media creates the potential for it to expand exponentially.

It’s past the point of being cute and harmless.

It is becoming the way that youth interact with the world. The smartphone is a technological appendage, and kids are depressed if they don’t have it.

I wouldn’t feel so great either if I suddenly lost my arm.

Frantically scanning through apps and desperately searching for connection leads the searcher pining for something that will never be found.

It’s an addiction.

Using technology as the primary mode of connection leads to feelings that are ephemeral.

It’s the carnival ride that you know makes you feel sick, but you just can’t stay away.

It’s too tempting not to get on. On top of that, all of your friends are doing it, and do you want to be left out?

No. Of course you don’t

I’ve worked with youth, who, at one point or another, have lost themselves in technology and social media.

It’s not their fault. Social media is ubiquitous.

It’s like the fish who thought he was free to go anywhere, only to discover that he has been in water this entire time. The water allows for mobility, but it ultimately controls the sea creature’s destiny.

It’s important to build air into life.

Without it, individuals suffer — individuals, who on their own are capable of unfathomable greatness, if only they put themselves to the task — end up only swimming in the shallow end of the pool.

If we do things for the “likes” — if we base our self-worth on the response we get from a screen, we will demolish our self-confidence.

We will pursue only what we think others want us to pursue, and we will lose our ability to be creative and to achieve greatness.

Each person has innate talents and qualities that risk being squandered by the Venus flytrap that is social media.

It’s tantalizing to go where everyone already is.

It’s enticing to follow someone else’s lead.

It’s only natural. Our brains are wired to avoid criticism.

And now they’re being wired to avoid reality — and to avoid feeling alone. To avoid feeling anything, really.

Life is supposed to be felt. It yearns to be experienced.

It loses its vibrancy when emotional content is packaged into little boxes and shipped throughout the social media system.

Life loses its meaning, anxiety and depression emerge in its place, and valuable human beings suffer as a result.

What will we do next?

Will we do what is expected, or will we become the greatest versions of ourselves?